I have always liked traveling to new countries. The breathtaking landscapes, vibrant city life, and the call of the wild have always beckoned to me. So, I embarked on an unforgettable journey to explore the wonders of Western Canada, particularly the picturesque gems of Calgary, Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Yoho National Park. From the urban charm of downtown Calgary to the awe-inspiring majesty of the national parks, every moment was a captivating experience.
On August 2nd, 2023, I went to the San Francisco Airport. I was so pumped and excited for this trip since I haven’t been on an airplane for a long time. Also my friends Jesse and Keyu would be coming with us. After a quick lunch, we boarded the plane. It was a two and a half hour flight to the Calgary International Airport. When we got there, I immediately realized that there was a time difference of one hour from the USA. Also, the Western Canadians used French as their main language besides English. We had a shuttle drop us off at our hotel, the Ramada Plaza. After relaxing for some time in the hotel, we were hungry and went to a Korean restaurant to eat. The food there was pretty good,though I was surprised that the buckwheat noodles were black and cold, while the “broth” was just water. After dinner, we went to downtown Calgary, where we enjoyed the music and urban charm of the city. It was bustling with people, and everyone was having a relaxed time. We then went to the Calgary tower, located 191 meters above the city floor. Sadly, we couldn’t go on the elevator to the top of the tower because the line to get tickets was too long. After getting an ice cream cone at McDonalds, we went back to our hotel.
Calgary Central Library
The next day, we went to the ZCREW Cafe, and wow, it was one of if not the best brunch I ever had. They served a delicious Belgian Waffle, topped with vanilla ice cream, fruits, maple syrup, and custard. The hot chocolate and the different kinds of coffee all had exquisite Latte art. There was also delicious tan-tan ramen and vegetable soup ramen. Overall, I felt like it was definitely worth the long walk to get to the restaurant. Afterwards, we went to the Calgary Central Library. The moment I saw it from the exterior I knew that it was much more than just a normal library. Normally, I would go to the Mountain View Library to get books, but the Calgary Library was 3 times the size of the Mountain View Library. It was constructed using amazing architecture, with half-moon shaped walls, and gentle terrace slopes to the heart of the building. There were books of various genres on every floor, with 4 floors in total. The entire building gave me a futuristic vibe. After spending some time reading books, we took the Calgary Transit to go to the Chinook Center, which was a major shopping center. While the parents went shopping, Jesse, Keyu, and I went to the Apple Store to look at some laptops. Time passed by quickly, and soon we were out of the store again, heading for the next stop, which was Prince’s Island. It was an island connected to Calgary by a bridge across the Bow River. To my surprise, there was a restaurant called River Cafe, which sold drinks, appetizers, and desserts. The adults all bought cocktails or lattes, while Jesse, Keyu, and I all bought berry lemonades. It was very refreshing and cooled us down from the blazing sun. After taking a walk around the park, we went back to Downtown Calgary, and ate at a restaurant called Silver Dragon, which sold dim sum. After dinner, we went to a popular cafe called CoCo fresh tea & juice, which sold bubble tea and fresh fruit juices. I bought a brown sugar milk tea, while Keyu bought a traditional bubble tea. Afterwards, we were all tired from a day’s journey and went back to our hotel.
The next day was the start of our booked tour to the national parks. We woke up at 6:00 a.m. to get breakfast and packed up our belongings, since we would be switching hotels. We boarded the tour bus at 7:00. First, we picked up people from other hotels, and then started our journey of sightseeing. Our tour guide, Peter, told us about Calgary and its rich history. What surprised me the most was the fact that Calgary held the 1988 Winter Olympics at the Calgary Olympics Plaza. After a two hour ride, we went to Surprise Corner, which gave us an amazing view of Lake Louise and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The Fairmont Hotel was by far the most grand and majestic looking hotel I had ever seen. It was 7 stories high, with chariots and horses which made it look like a castle.After that, we went to the Banff Gondola, which took us up to the upper terminal of Sulphur Mountain. During the ride, I was at first a bit scared because we were so high up in the air, and the ride was so bumpy. When we landed, we decided to walk along the ridge to Samson’s Peak. It gave me a fantastic view of the entire Banff National Park, and I could see the vast forests and mountains. I also realized that we were at such a high elevation that the amount of oxygen was reduced, making it harder to breathe. At the peak, we took man pictures before going back down the gondola. Then, we went to eat lunch, and we discovered the prized ice cream restaurant called Cows, which served handmade ice cream and waffle cones. Every scoop was made with the finest ingredients and it was ranked the #1 ice cream in the world by Tauck World Discovery. Next, we headed to the Tunnel Mountain View point, which gave us a spectacular view of the hoodoos (rock formations), and the Sleeping Bison, which is a small peak. Then, we drove back to the Banff town, which was the location of the Banff Aspen Lodge, a cozy hotel where we rested for the night. For dinner, we went to Ramen Adashi, a restaurant that served quality ramen. The serving size was quite small, so afterwards, we went for dessert at Beavertails. Jesse got a classic pastry with lemonade, Keyu got a Hazel Amourwith Big Foot Ice Cream, and I got a Hazel Amour with a lemonade Vanilla ice cream float. Afterwards, we went to the local market to buy fruits and then headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, we went to Jasper National Park. Our tour guide, Allen, took us to see Maligne Canyon, which is a picturesque limestone gorge that stretches for 50 meters. It is widely regarded as the most captivating canyon in the Canadian Rockies. Hiking along the Maligne River offers stunning waterfalls and breathtaking scenery throughout. We went down to the river and started skipping stones. We then went to Athabasca Falls, which was located on the Athabasca River, which possessed immensely powerful waters from the glaciers. After eating at a local Korean restaurant, we went to Maligne Lake, and took the cruise to Spirit Island. There were stunning views of mountains, canyons, and glaciers. Our tour guide Bea informed us about the history of Spirit Island, but sadly, we couldn’t go on the island itself because it was a very religious area. When we got back, it was already 5:00 p.m. so we headed to the Jasper Lobstick Lodge. For dinner, we ate at One Sushi, which gave us delicious ramen and fresh sushi. I ordered Tonkotsu ramen with Dynamite Sushi Combo. After I finished, I was so full that I skipped dessert.
I wore my thickest and warmest jacket to prepare for the glacier ride. We would be riding on an Ice Explorer through the Athabasca Glaciers. We had to put on shades to protect our eyes from the blinding white ice. When we got down, we took some pictures and I drank water from the river made by the glacier. It was freezing cold, but the water was amazingly fresh and pure. Jesse, Keyu, and I played with the ice and tried to hit the ice midair. Then, we went to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, where we gazed at the scenery on a glass bridge. It was pretty amazing looking at the transparent floor, and made me feel like I was floating. After we went back, we went to eat lunch at the resort, which sold burgers and drinks. We then started our long drive back to Banff town. After we got there, we ate dinner at Pho House. We ordered spring rolls and vegetable wraps as appetizers. I ordered sour and spicy rice noodles for myself. We were not full yet, so Keyu and I went to Beavertails again and got ourselves each a Brwownie. We then went shopping for some time, and then went back to the Banff Aspen Lodge to rest.
It was the last day before we went back to San Francisco. We first went to Yoho National Park. We looked at the clear turquoise waters of Emerald Lake. Then, we ate at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. The hotel itself was very majestic, but the food was unappealing. The salad was greasy, the coffee was too sweet, the steak was too bland and overcooked, and the passion fruitcake was way too sour. After lunch, we went to take pictures of Lake Louise. Due to being located right next to Lake Louise, we easily got some quality close-up pictures of the serene blue lake. We also collected round stones to see who could skip the most times on the still lake. This alpine lake was a turquoise blue color fed by glacier melt. This was without doubt the best lake I had seen in the Canadian Rockies. The lake was so huge that it took us 2 hours to travel around it. Afterwards, we went back on the bus for the long journey back to Calgary.
This trip was one of the most memorable trips I ever had. My journey through Calgary, Banff, Yoho, and Jasper was a symphony of urban exploration and immersion in the untamed beauty of nature. From the bustling streets of Calgary to the serene lakes of Banff and the wild landscapes of Jasper, each destination offered a unique perspective on the remarkable diversity that Western Canada has to offer.